[ExI] Rationality and Irrationality

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Wed Dec 19 06:50:30 UTC 2007

On Dec 18, 2007, at 3:37 PM, Mike Dougherty wrote:

> On Dec 18, 2007 10:09 AM, Kevin Freels <kevin at kevinfreels.com> wrote:
>> little doubt the US will tap Alaskan oil fields, but not before the
>> selling price is five times what it is now.

To the best of current petrol company estimates from actual  
exploration there is not all that much oil in Alaska to be tapped.

>> In order to make that
>> happen, some changes are obviously required. Americans will not pay
>> that much to drive,

What I expect to see is telecommuting finally come into its own.  Many  
billions of dollars of productivity are lost commuting not to mention  
the waste in fuel and belching nasties into the air.

>> Prove it. I think you are wrong. Americans have a love affair with  
>> the
>> independence that driving a car brings. They cannot all afford to  
>> go out and
>> buy a new vehicle.

I used to drive 50 minutes each way to work.  I can assure you that  
although I love to drive I was not in the least unhappy to no longer  
need to take such a commute.    The mileage I put on my car fell  
drastically.   I do love to drive and love my independence of movement  
but the vast majority of my driving was commute.   I suspect that is  
true for a lot of people.

>> The average commute is 45 minutes meaning that they can't
> [snip]
>> were comfortable, attractive, safe (both real and perceived), that  
>> would do
>> 75 mpg - or even 100, they would jump on it.

I think many would jump on really effective telecommuting even  
faster.  But I did buy a Prius largely because of my former long  

>> But even then you have the used
>> car problem to address. Any real alternative to make a difference  
>> will have
>> to include all the used vehicles already out there.

Massive upgrades of electricity production (nuclear, solar, wind,  
wave, etc.) and affordable electric cars and conversion kits will do  
the trick eventually.  If I can pay to convert for less than I spend a  
year on gas and pay it over time then I would be a fool not to.

>> Also, this still doesn't address the problem. The oil in Alaska, if  
>> not
>> purchased by the US will be bought from us by other countries. It  
>> will be
>> sold to whomever is willing to pay the most.

There is no great bonanza of oil in Alaska.

> exactly.  We love to drive, and we'll pressure politicians to keep gas
> prices under $100 a tank - but if the price raises enough to hurt,
> people will be motivated to think in the "right" direction (towards
> alternatives)

Alternatives such as the electric car we already had were not killed  
by the people but by existing corporations with an interest in the  
status quo.   The people being motivated by themselves can do very  
little.   A few innovators with sufficient  funding and large scale  
build out of alternative infrastructure are needed.  There are many  
pieces to this puzzle and many are easy to sidetrack.

> Suppose it takes 15 years for the lowest income car
> owners to buy used hybrids manufactured this year.  By that point, the
> US can sell their oil reserves at grossly inflated prices to less
> developed nations because the "average" US car driver is less
> dependent on it, while those countries lagging in the conversion have
> no choice but to pay...

It is more likely to be the other way around since the developing  
nations have less pre-existing inertia from massive investments in  
petrochemical based internal combustion driven transportation and its  
supporting infrastructure.    Some of those less developed nations are  
also where much of the proven reserves are.  The US is pretty well  
tapped on oil unless we figure out some miraculous way to tap oil shale.

>> it wouldn't be worth it to go to work - so an
>> artificial 50% increase now is just enough pain to adopt hybrid and
>> electric vehicles so we can tolerate another 300+% increase tomorrow.

I doubt there is much "artificial" about the increase.  Want to know  
how fast the US$ is going down the toilet?  Watch the price of oil.    
Add to this the unpleasant likelihood that Peak Oil is largely real  
and increasing competition for oil from little places like China.    
What is artificial and for a limited time only is how little the price  
of gas has gone up in response.  Fortunately most gas is refined and  
stored before the peak driving season every year in the US.  So much  
of the hike in oil prices did not hit us yet.  Wait until next  
summer.    Also there is some likelihood of the price being  
artificially kept down in that the "crack spread" between what oil can  
be bought for and refined and what the resulting product brings on the  
market is narrowing too much to be very healthy for refiners.   This  
could be bad in that we are a bit short in the refinery department as  
it is and it takes considerable time and expense to bring new ones  

>> More money needs to be spent on R&D to make these products  
>> available. I
>> like where you are going with this though. How about a $1.50 per  
>> gallon gas
>> guzzler tax on all passenger vehicles that get less than 30 mpg and  
>> use that
>> money to directly fund alternative R&D.

As it is largely not the fault of these car owners that would be  
grossly unjust as are most government appropriations.

> Yeah, because people like to voluntarily accept unequal taxes :)

Different subject.   I dream of a time when we refuse to accept taxes  
at all.

- samantha

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